Why Saying "You're OK" is Not OK

Let me tell you a little story. It was a full moon on Sunday evening, and I came in Monday morning to teach my classes. I was in such a wonderful mood, my 10:15 class on Monday morning, usually goes so smoothly, and we all have such a fabulous time together.

We learn lots of things, we talk about our educational values, and the activities are so fun because these kids, they are so adorable. They have learned to socialize with each other and get along, and we laugh and we have a great time.

Well, the first activity that I tried didn't really go so well. They just weren't having it.

Then a few activities later, we tried some hammocking, and usually the kids love hammocking. What we do is, we take a towel, and they lay in the towel, and we rock them back and forth. It's so soothing, and they love it.

They're rocked to the music and it's wonderful for their vestibular stimulation.

However, this particular day, there were tears from this side of the room, and then there were tears from that side of the room. I was like, "Oh boy, this is not going so well."

I even said to the parents, "So, what can I do next that's not gonna go the way I thought it would go?"

We kinda giggled, but the kids were still crying.

Well, the parents, one by one, of course, started to say "You're okay, you're okay, you're okay," and hugging their child.

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So, my question to you is: why are you saying you're okay?

What do you mean by you're okay?

What do you mean by that?

What does okay mean?

What is okay?

What's okay about this situation?

If you as an adult, and this happened to me, sprained your ankle, and another adult says, "You're okay," you get kinda mad, and you get really frustrated because you think to yourself, "I'm not okay, this hurts like heck, right? So, I'm not okay, why are you telling me you're okay? Why are you telling me I'm okay? I'm not okay." And then you get more upset.

This can happen in your child's mind too.

So, your child may get more upset if you say to them, "You're okay, you're okay."

Because guess what?

They think you don't understand what they're feeling.

When you say to your child, "You're okay," it sounds like you're saying, "You're okay, you're not hurt."

But they are hurt..

Or, "You're okay, you're not scared."

But they are scared.

Or, "You're okay, you're okay, you're not frustrated."

But they are frustrated.

I don't think you really mean “you're okay!”

I think what you really mean is, "Mommy's here, you're safe."

Or, "Daddy's here, you're safe."

Or, "Grandma's here, you're safe."

Or, "Nanny's here, you're safe."

I think that's what you really mean.

In the last few blog posts, we talked about “good job” and how to say things other than good job. One of the things we talked about is truly noticing what's happening to your child.

That noticing is what helps create connections for you and your child.

That is also going to work in this instance.

So, let's apply the same tactic to this situation.

Your child is upset, they're frustrated, they're angry, they're scared, they're startled, and you see it happening…Here’s what you do:

  1. The first thing you want to do is take 3 deep belly breaths.

  2. Look into their eyes.

  3. Touch them.

  4. Hold their hand.

  5. They'll make eye contact with you even when they're upset.

  6. And explain to them….

"Emma, you fell and scraped your knee. It hurts when you scrape your knee. You're safe, I'm here with you. You're safe. Breathe with me." Or,

"Aidan, you and Tommy were running and you bumped into each other. You seem surprised and you seem scared. You're safe, I'm here. You're safe, breathe with me."

Here's another example. Jacob seems very frustrated and angry. Hold on to him, make eye contact, first breathe so you compose yourself. Three breaths. "Jacob, you wanted another cookie and they're all gone. You seem frustrated. It's hard when you want another cookie and there are no more cookies to eat. There will be cookies to eat another time. Breathe with me. You're safe, breathe with me."

By noticing what just happened to your child and recounting it, they realized you're noticing them, you are understanding how they are feeling, and now you're making a connection.

This is what will soothe your child because they realize, "Oh, mommy understands how I feel about this. Or daddy understands how I feel."

You are acknowledging your child.

You're acknowledging them, you are noticing them. That is key.

When you turn and say to them, "You're okay, you're okay," guess what you're doing? You are dismissing their feelings.

So notice and acknowledge, and now you will connect.

Has this happened to you? Do you say to your child, "You're okay, you're okay, you're okay," because you think you're comforting them? Your intentions are beautiful, but let's just take a little bit of a turn and learn how to notice, and acknowledge, and connect. And it's a beautiful thing.